I couldn’t help but gasp when my husband and I drove up to the Ponte Vineyard Inn. As beautiful as the photos I’ve seen online are, the hotel is better in person. We arrived at about 6 pm just as the afternoon heat was taming, the winery guests were heading home and the hustle and bustle of a Saturday in Temecula wine country was mellowing. As we walked up to the entrance of this gorgeous structure reminiscent of early California missions, all I could hear was my own two feet crunching the walkway. Everything else was quiet, peaceful. The enormous wooden, sensored doors swung open to welcome us like we were royalty. Stepping into the foyer brought even more awe. Between the terracotta tiled floors, the earthenware pottery and soft beige walls, the décor of the Inn is modern yet welcoming, beautiful yet understated. As we approached reception in the lobby, I noticed cobalt blues, dijon yellows and burnt oranges incorporated into the neutral palate. Gina greeted us at the reception area with a friendly “Welcome” and glasses of Ponte’s famous sparkling Moscato.
Moscato on the room patio
While she checked us in I let my eyes wander to the beautiful art adorning the walls, one of which I recognized as the very portrait from Ponte’s Graciela wine label. Gina made us reservations for Bouquet that evening, wished us a pleasant stay and indicated where our room was. Moscato in hand, my husband and I walked outside into the courtyard, in the direction of our King room. The attention to detail continued outdoors. There were wooden rocking chairs on the walkway for guests to use, with tables between them to offer a resting place for a bottle of wine or cup of coffee. These chairs faced a tiled fountain, the beautiful pond and mountains in the distance.
Walking past an unlit fire pit where two couples sat chatting, we saw their Golden Retriever puppy putting around, tail wagging, tongue panting in excitement (even the pets know this place is exceptional). Despite the gorgeous décor and exceptional service we’d already experienced, deep down the Inn felt comfortable and welcoming. Seeing the puppy is when it hit me, I think; we could have been in a friend’s back yard.
We walked into our ground floor room and the first thing I noticed was another familiar painting: the artwork featured on Ponte’s Beverino wine. I knew it couldn’t be the original, but it was still pretty cool to see. The king-sized bed looked plush with crisp white linens and plenty of pillows. They rested on a grand fabric headboard and frame with nailhead accents. In place of a closet, the room included an armoire with ironing accessories, plenty of space for hanging garments, shoe compartments, a safe and two white robes. Not enough hotels offer robes, in my opinion, so this was a nice touch. There was an iPod docking station, a Keurig coffee maker, wine glasses, a corkscrew…but no “do not disturb” sign. Oh yeah, that’s because, should we prefer not to be disturbed, all we had to do was push a button! The huge, tiled bathroom boasted an enormous glass shower with rainfall showerhead and lemon verbena-scented L’Occitane bath amenities. Our room included a patio with two chairs and a table, perfect for morning coffee, and faced vineyards, Southcoast Winery and mountains in the distance. It was shaded by a natural-looking pergola made out of what I thought was grapewood.
I wasn’t quite ready to relax in my room, so my husband and I unpacked and headed back to the courtyard to see more of the Inn. By this time, the puppy was snoozing in the setting sun and his owners were polishing off their bottle of wine. We walked along the white rose-lined walkway to the pond and marveled at the incredible mountain and vineyard views.
We discovered that the seating for Bouquet Restaurant was outside, in the courtyard which explained the arched pergolas we saw earlier bending over dining tables and chairs. Greenery was just beginning to grow and climb; I’m not sure how long it will take for them to fully grow up and above the pergola, but when they do, it will look magical, I’m sure. Walking back into the lobby, we were greeted by Inn associates with smiles. I noticed a large, glass beverage dispenser filled with ice water and citrus slices for guests to help themselves to as well as newspapers and even board games scattered tastefully around the lobby and its various tables, chairs and plush sofas. The sundry shop was small but offered anything one might need for a comfortable (or romantic) stay in wine country including candles, chocolate covered almonds, chilled and unchilled Ponte wines. There was also Ponte apparel, gourmet snacks, gorgeous ladies jewelry, even men’s black socks – perfect since my husband had forgotten his pair! Essentials like Pepto Bismol, toothpaste and aspirin were stocked discreetly in glass drawers.
Next, I knew we had to check out the much-hyped Cellar Lounge. It is exactly where they say it is: downstairs in the cellar. On our way down the tiled stairway we passed stone walls inset with oversized glass and straw wine jugs, perfect touches leading to the Cellar. As we turned the corner into the Lounge, the first thing I saw past the reception table was an impressive glass wine display. From nearly floor to ceiling were bottle after bottle of wine, mostly Ponte wines, but there were also other local wines displayed. Seating is vast and suits any mood, from banquets to plush chairs and sofas to comfy barstools. Seductive paintings of beautiful women and dapper men drinking cocktails in the dark line one wall while the opposite wall glows with top shelf liquors and cordials. As my husband and I took a seat in front of the live musicians playing that evening, our server presented a very impressive and extensive cocktail menu. It took us a while to choose, but we ultimately ordered a Santorini and a Rio. The Santorini was a martini made of Ketel One vodka, cucumber liqueur, organic triple sec and fresh lemon juice. The Rio included Leblon Cachaça, agave syrup, fresh lime and basil and was served in an icy lowball glass. Both were refreshing rather than sweet and served as the perfect aperitif to our upcoming dinner at Bouquet. I wish we would have had more time to sample more of the cocktails, which include an astonishing-sounding Sangria made with Ponte Beverino and Rose Spumante, but our dinner awaited us.
Our meal and experience at Bouquet was wonderful. There is, however, so much to say about it that it will be its own blog next week – stay tuned! To briefly sum it up here, though, I will say it included sparkling rose wine, two appetizers, two salads, two entrees, two glasses of perfectly-paired wine and strong espresso brought to us by Joyce, our stellar server for the evening.
As we sat finishing our coffee, the fire pits in the Courtyard were lit and couples gathered round with glasses of wine. The atmosphere was quiet, with the only sounds coming from diner’s hushed conversations, crickets, the trickle of water coming from the Courtyard fountain and the soft rhythm of jazz coming from the Cellar Lounge. I found out earlier in the evening that the hotel was booked at nearly maximum capacity, but we would never know from the sounds – or lack thereof.
By now, with our appetites fully satisfied and our livers ready for a break, my husband and I strolled back to our room, ready to call it a night. I did wake up a couple of times, but I always do when I’m away from home. It was a good thing, though because each time I awoke I got to appreciate how incredibly comfortable the mattress and goose down pillows were.
I woke up the next morning at 6 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. In hindsight, I think I was just eager to open up those French doors, brew myself a cup of coffee and sit out on the patio in my white robe. And so I did. My husband joined me after a while and we sat watching the mist rise off the vines and four hot air balloons drift into the morning sky. A little while later, we retreated back to bed and drank more coffee before getting ready to check out.
Morning on the patio
It was tough to leave, especially after walking by the early morning diners at Bouquet enjoying watermelon juice, Bloody Marys and poached eggs with linguiça. If we’d had more time that morning, I’m sure my husband and I would have happily stayed and ordered one of those amazing looking breakfasts. On our way out there were more greetings and “come back again” wishes from everyone from the concierge to the valets and the friendly associate watering the potted plants outside.
The Ponte Vineyard Inn is exceptional in every way. The service, the ambiance, the dining…everything was just what we needed to forget about life for a while. My one regret is that we couldn’t stay longer and enjoy wine tasting at the 3 wineries within walking distance. But everything we did experience during our overnight stay was marvelous.
–What is your favorite place to getaway?